Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and what to drink while doing it. Here, the boys are talking about South Bend, Carmel, outside looking in on the one-percent, the elusiveness of the made-up game and wagering better through self-awareness, prescription meds and Craig Biggio sightings.
Here, ready to kick it 4,000 words live…Andrew J. Pridgen:
I hope you made it back from South Bend. South Bend is one of those places like Disneyland to me. Like, I never really want to actually go there because I never feel like I’m going to have as much fun as the people are having in the pictures. I also never really believe that campus and its history and grandeur will hit me in real life like it should. It has so affected and informed me in my fantasy world there’s no way the real thing can work out. Fantasy life: I went to Notre Dame instead of Oregon and now split my time between my regular home in Scarsdale, my summer home in the Berkshires and my winter cabin/writers’ retreat just outside of Woodstock, VT. A lot of khakis, that Jeep Grand Wagoneer with the wood paneling, some kind of Tartan fishing gear bag hangs in my mudroom and I can recite back the changes to the LL Bean catalog by season.
Instead I’m all flip-flops and burritos.
Life sometimes has a way of turning out different than you imagine.
I did, however, get a taste of the Lipitor/Cialis/sweater-tied-around-the-neck sect this past Labor Day/kickoff weekend. The family and I took two days in tony Carmel-by-the-Sea (as if Carmel could be anywhere else) California. No, the wine and cheese weekend wasn’t from my UNLV/NIU winnings; I just happen to have a buddy whose grandparents bought a little chalet four blocks from Ocean Avenue. in the early ‘70s. Rumor has it they were taking a weekend to test drive cars and this tiny beach cottage with no heat, no power, was selling for approximately the same amount as the Crown Victoria they had their eye on. They chose beach bungalow (<–they chose…wisely). It was built more than a century ago as a little community gathering lodge and has had (rumored) lives as a still, a flop house for hippies and musicians and currently stands to today (still no heating, still no TV, still no wi-fi) as an homage to a retreat in the day where people used to be OK sleeping to the sound of crackling pine breathing from the hearth and ocean foam exploding on the shoreline. So, maybe there is a little LL Bean in me after all.
Fortunately for me Brophy’s Tavern exists one enchanted walk on an overgrown wooded stairwell above the home. ‘The Broph’ is the place where through the decades I’ve gone and drank with professional Pebble Beach caddies, the wait staff from Hog’s Breath and pretty much every surly bronze sculpture gallery manager divorcee with a slur and lip gloss all over her teeth. More than this, it’s probably the only true sports bar/pub in that particular cypress- and conifer-studded zip. Maybe it’s a sign of the economic times, the fact that Carmel homes now cost decidedly more than a five- or six-figure income can afford, that every patron this weekend was all veneers and plugs to go with prescription drugs. I was decidedly two decades the junior of most in attendance and I’m not younger than anyone anymore.
Whilst there, a wind storm blew a giant branch from a dying conifer fell into my buddy’s backyard. Seems that the tall trees in Carmel are slowly perishing. They used to get their water from fog. But because the world is on fire and Carmel is no longer socked in and darker than the inside of a Titleist, these trees are slowly starting to perish. No trees = not as much charm. Not as much charm = not as many charming tourists. Not as many charming tourists = no economy.
So maybe the one-percenters I saw at The Broph were the last of a very literal dying breed. Maybe the new one-percenters are just at Burning Man, and if that’s the case, could give a fuck less about trees, or galleries or anything that isn’t directly vibrating on their genitals. I, in other words, was preoccupied by the end of something while watching Oregon struggle to beat Eastern Washington…even with the Eagles’ best player under center. Watching Harbaugh throw his Ann Arbor comeback on the DVR and watching your father’s golden domers look every bit as good as their independent counterpart from the Family City USA (Provo) both notching a win for their version of god and Jesus and his back-up dancers.
Which all leads me back (quizzically) to Arizona State and what to make of them… more on that below.
Kyle, your reflections on the alma mater of the real Joe Montana and the movie version (Vince Vaughn) of him?
Campus is actually pretty near the fantasy, you just have to be willing to pay for it. Loads of cream-bricked gothic buildings (even the uber-trendy status symbol student apartments and shiny architectural marvel of a hockey arena are strictly on-brand when it comes to the veneers) and stately elms. There’s something especially arresting about campus at this time of year, before the trees are denuded and it only shouts GOD AND LEARNING AND FOOTBALL HAPPEN HERE. We even saw a Glee Club out on campus during our pre-game stroll. It seems like every one of the school’s 15,000-ish students are involved in something–’save the kids’ in Africa cause clubs sell hot dogs in the quad, a group of women were selling charming Longhorn Steak House t-shirts depicting Touchdown Jesus standing inside Notre Dame stadium with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other ready for the ‘Horns to come in for slaughter, which they did. I think proceeds went to closing cleft pallettes or something. The whole scene is definitely bucolic.
The only disheartening thing was that, like far too many experiences, you pay to play in the club. Commerce permeates the whole affair, which shouldn’t be surprising. Some combination of miracles and familial roots in Michigan’s far southwest and Indiana’s most northerly reaches produced face value tickets at $125 a pop–by hundreds of dollars the best deal for anyone who wasn’t chasing a degree there. We attended a tailgate immediately adjacent to the stadium–and I’m not talking about ‘close’ but ‘holy shit that’s the ‘88 title team’s line walking past the tailgate’ close. Somebody saw Craig Biggio. There had to be $1,800 worth of booze behind the four-table setup, complete with a Dish Tailgater(™) TV setup and fried chicken and cakes and sandwiches and meatballs and a general air of ‘we could feed an army.’ The next thing that grabbed your attention was doing a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation of the money bomb Texas brings with it, even in embarrassing defeat. A fleet of private oil money jets–even today, in the era of $45/barrel oil–were lined up adjacent to the runway at SBN. So much Burnt Orange was shuffling around Chicago that the Cubs played Texas Fight over the loudspeaker at their Friday home game. A motorcade of party buses plied their way from the Windy City to South Bend loaded with guys doing the Texas Tuck and girls in neon Raybans, sundresses and cowboy boots. On Friday, I was fortunate to hit the calm waters of Lake Michigan on a pair of charter fishing boats with our Longhorns family at a Benjamin a man for lake trout and king salmon. The flights, the rentals, the play, the drinking, not to mention the tickets–the thump a visit from UT provides had to mean 7 or 8 figures across three states and 12 counties.
One wonders where there’s space for the common man in this sport of college football. For someone of modest means–someone who didn’t grow up with a family who heads to South Bend or Austin on Saturdays in the fall or even flies across the country to follow a team–gaining entry to the club seems like it would require a minor miracle. One also wonders about the future of the sport when it relies on such a small subset to fill its cathedrals and buy its telecasts. In short, it’s a spectacular experience, maybe everything you dreamed it would be, but who are you gonna share it with?
Anyway AJ, you wanna pull us out of the literary xanax coma I just wrote us into?
To quote the prophet Jonathan Utah, “Whoa.”
Along with the above being one of my most favorite things you’ve written since your visceral takedown of one Brady Hoke I think your heartfelt travelogue raises some of the same questions I’ve been wrestling with/researching for the better part of a year as I try to figure out how I’m going to be able to one day afford to take my son to a baseball game. That’s right, a game.
Sometimes, I feel like being alive any other time in history—I mean, my lifetime has overlapped with that of all four Beatles, Richard Pryor lighting himself on fire (surviving) and the Godfather II. Any other place or moment, I’d have been as likely to get stoned, boiled, tarred or starved to death. Other times, I think we’re just standing on that cliff’s edge, kicking down a few errant pebbles just to see how far we’re about to fall. Of course, everyone thinks they’re living at the end times when it’s really just the untetheredness (<– not a word) of it all, the lack of real assurance that there’s any ‘there’ here nor is there anything beyond it that chases away our conscious thoughts of what we should be doing right now to take advantage.
Yes, this is me chewing on the arm of some glasses and jotting notes in my therapists’ pad while I shift in my Harvey Probber chair, but I think what you realized this weekend in South Bend is more just a pinch of mortality and a dash of morality. At once, you’re recognizing the homogenized consumer nation we’ve become. Insanely accessible communications technology has stripped away the things that used to make us individual—turned the dialogue into a single thought bubble. Your kitchen with granite and stainless and subway tiles. Your flight, business class. Your attire, decidedly China-bred neoprene with associated team logo. Your meals, curated from a thousand errant charms of chefs past and distilled for the palette of the monied and unconcerned. Raw tuna. Raw steak. Raw oysters. Your chosen method of communication, black screens garnished with cartoon face of your finger tip.
We’re not thinkers anymore. Not just that, we’re thoughtless.
But the problem has been identified. The question is, what are you going to do about it? My answer, wager:
Cal -7.5 vs SDSU/over 61
The 2015 Golden Bears’ sample size is small but mighty. Week one, Cal rolled up Grambling State 73-14. Head coach Sonny Dykes took a little heat in the comments section for running up the score (if you call putting up 35 in the first quarter and playing reserves most of the second half a dick move) but the reality is the final could have just has easily been 87-0. Yes, Grambling is a FCS school and the Aztecs are coming off a convincing win against cross-town rival USD, but the reality is Grambling gave the Bears a nice warm-up/look at the 3-3-5 defense—which SDSU head coach Rocky Long has implemented since the early ‘90s at Oregon State.
For those uninitiated or living east of Carson City, the 3-3-5 means three D linemen, three linebackers and five DBs. It’s not something oft-practiced outside the Mountain West/Pac-12 and mostly counters a spread, rifle or zone read offense. The only problem for SDSU is Cal QB Jared Goff, if not for Kyle’s boyband crush The Rosen One in powder blue, would be the talk of the conference. Last week, Goff led the bear’s offense to 656 total yards augmenting his already staggering totals as a junior: 7,481 yards and 53 touchdowns coming into this year’s campaign.
Dykes’ no-huddle “Bear Raid” (reminds me of Dazed and Confused) offense is kind of a hybrid of those listed above and plays more like half-court basketball. If just one of the DBs breaks down in coverage or gets picked up on the blitz, that leaves Goff with endless room to create with his feet, dump off underneath or hit the post.
In other words, if Cal’s able to execute—which they’ve shown they ab-so-frigging-lutely can, putting up school record numbers game one—then it could be a scary long afternoon for the Aztecs at Memorial Stadium. Look for the tone to set in the form of a flurry of jump balls thrown the way of bear wideout Bryce Treggs, who at 6’3” has a good four inches on any SDSU DB. Treggs also hauled in a trio of TD grabs against Grambling in last week’s first half.
If there’s a way for SDSU to keep it close to the spread, it’s by exploiting Cal’s unproven defense. Dykes’ bears in his half decade in Berkeley have yielded the most yards and second-most points in CFB. Last week his all-senior D line put the Tigers on lockdown as junior middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who may be a first-rounder in April, let nothing go by and Cal’s still questionable DBs only allowed 170 yards in the air.
If Cal starts out hot, look to be seeing the second unit by the third quarter. Even with a slow start, an Oregon-style second-half track meet should tip in favor of the Bears. I don’t see Dykes easing up on the throttle this early in the season as he tries to gain stature in the suddenly suspect Pac-12 as well as grab the eye of pollsters.
OK Kyle, I hope your faith in humanity is somewhat restored if not reinvigorated with a little Ommegang time this week. I’ll have a trio of picks on the other side to wrap…but for now—back to you:
If only Ommegang were that easy to find. I’ve actually been binging (and this will surprise none of our readers) on my favorite Bell’s beer–Third Coast. I’ll blame that for my picks being so damned lousy last week (1 for 4, ugh).
Anyway, if I haven’t depressed the readers enough, I want to get back to Texas for just a second. I have no idea if the Horns were as bad as Notre Dame made them look or if Notre Dame was that good, but I suspect it’s a mix of the two. The Longhorns program is a sad place, especially when QB Tyrone Swoopes and his… 7.6 QBR is considered un-replaceable. There’s literally nobody else on that roster Charlie Strong feels can top his 7/22, 93 yard effort last week. His backup Jerrod Heard got two plays before he looked sufficiently mystified for Strong to pull him for Swoopes. I have nothing constructive to say about the Horns’ defense heading into this weekend’s matchup against Rice because their offense mustered just three series that lasted longer than two minutes last week and the boys were getting annihilated. Anyone who tells you they have a solid read on Texas’ defense is on Charlie Strong’s staff or a liar. Either way, let’s do this…
Rice +15 @ Texas
The Owls can rightly be expected to bear the brunt of the Horns’ displeasure this weekend. An off-brand in-state rival is a great way to take out aggression, but I’m just not sure how Texas intends to dispense its justice since it’s walking into a gunfight with an airsoft. Rice can grind on your with its rushing game–their 56-16 destruction of Wagner in week one fueled by seven rushing touchdowns at least proved that. They can also strike lightning quick–one-play drives of 3 and 6 seconds and a two-play, 77 yard touchdown drive were all the results of turnovers versus Wagner. Rice isn’t likely to bring pressure upon Swoopes like Notre Dame could, but they don’t appear to have the kind of offense that’ll back down if its counterparts get scored on early and often. Look for the Owls to cover a too-large spread.
Boise State @ BYU +3
I think this line would be different if BYU’s Taysom Hill–who landed in the New World with Cortez, founded Mormonism, served six consecutive missions and will be gunning for a rare 17th medical redshirt next season–was healthy. The thing is, I’m not sure it shouldn’t swing the Cougars’ way regardless. Look at what Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall asked Hill’s redshirt freshman, 22-year old backup (God blesses missionaries to live with the playbook, a workout regimen and zero other technology in a foreign country for two years) Tyler Mangum to do as a replacement versus old man river:
Mangum- 7/11, 111 yards
Hill/Themosticles- 21/34, 268 yards
It’s roughly the same amount of usage and success once you control for snaps, albeit in a small sample size. What I’m saying is that Mangum might not be that big a step down, and that should worry the lethargic-looking Broncos who barely eked out a 3-point win in a huge 16-13 defeat of their old coach and his Washington Huskies on the Smurf Turf last week. A night game in Provo is not an ideal environment in which to dial in an offense that went 8 straight punts to finish last week’s game. Look for the Cougs to cover.
UCLA -30 @ UNLV
Sign me up for Josh Rosen’s newsletter. Honestly, the Bruins’ freshman quarterback might be every bit the world’s first ‘6-star recruit.’ Kid waltzed into the Rose Bowl last week, just four months after prom, and mercilessly mollywhopped a game ACC squad in Virginia by hitting 28/35 for 351 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Coaches–Jim Mora least of all–aren’t just handing out 35 attempts a game to freshmen anywhere else in the country. Add in the fact that UCLA’s fanbase has the kid on their radar and Vegas is just a sun-scorched four-hour drive away and UNLV’s home base will be rocking for a primetime showdown. It’s almost ancillary to the equation that the Rebs were giving up 14 yards per catch to a MAC school last week, and that they allowed four touchdowns on the last seven drives they saw.
Oregon @ Michigan State Over 66.5
Neither defense looked great last week, and both offenses soared. I’m licking my lips at the potential for a shootout between the squads of this site’s proprietors. AJ, we saw Michigan State pile on the points early last year and then fall flat as heat and the Ducks’ D took a toll up in Autzen. The weather is going to be 66 and maybe cloudy Saturday for a beautiful night of football in East Lansing. I think if it stays dry Ducks QB Vernon Adams and Spartan trigger-man Connor Cook light it up. May the best squad win.
Back over to you for the big finish…
Thanks Kyle. Just like Scott Boras wants to limit Matt Harvey on pitch count, I’ve gotten similar word from my agent re: word count. Nothing more than
3.5 4k says he. So my picks, like Jessica Simpson’s time with John Mayer, will be quick and dirty.
Michigan State vs. Oregon (Pick ‘em)
I choose you Michigan State. And no, this isn’t some clever ruse for me to bet against my alma mater to give them that extra sprinkle of cinnamony goodness they need to ‘win the day’ Saturday; I just don’t think Ducks are the Pac-12 Norse team of record this year. And I’m tired of all the bars/restaurants in Eugene with offerings on the chalkboard. Like, just give me a fucking menu. Ducks’ head coach Mark Helfrich, who looks like my IT guy and has the same amount of charisma, seems to choke against the Big-10 more than Carradine in a closet. Scott Frost is the real head coach but he’s up in the booth penciling out his Stanford contract. Oregon’s D is more porous than Stan Gable’s mesh practice jersey and I’m still not sure picking up an Eastern Washington graduate fellow in Vernon Adams to take snaps was the most savory move by the Nike flagship. As Kyle mentioned, the Spartans are at home, one year the wiser on defense and Connor Cook had 12 months to figure out how to not fade in the third quarter. Sparty wins by two scores.
Oregon State +14 at Michigan
My second Pac-12/Big-10 matchup is Oregon State at Michigan and I’m taking the Beavs. Yes, I may be backing the wrong Oregon to best the wrong Michigan on paper, but whatever. I feel like everyone, including Vegas, has been infected with the Harbaugh bug. If you checked in on our pre-season podcast you’ve learned I’m no exception. But, I took a suppository and my fever broke and now I’m off that. Granted, Harbaugh will receive a US Women’s Soccer-style welcome in his backyard homecoming, but the Beavs will be primped and ready. This is the biggest game on OSU’s regular season dance card and head coach Gary Anderson (formerly Wisconsin’s Gary Anderson) is looking for some kind of statement air mailed all the way from muddy-ass Corvallis. Michigan is a recruiting class or three from having the right set pieces and even though they should be a field goal better than the Beavs, look for a lot of jawing for the khaki and Sharpie’d one as this goes down to the final minute.
Central Florida +16 at Stanford
Both UCF and Stanford stumbled out of the blocks last week. Stanford got out-nerded by Northwestern and Central Florida lost 15-14 to FIU in an equal battle of wits. The Knights were held scoreless in the second half despite having a pair of 100-yard performances from wideouts Jordan Atkins and Tre’Quan Smith, so QB Justin Holman’s offense was rolling but not converting. UCF’s defense was eviscerated from last year losing its secondary, two linebackers and half of its D-line with senior D tackle Demetris Anderson bowing out for the season with a knee injury. They may have a chance to get healthy against the Cardinal. Stanford had one nice play last Saturday—a 27-yard run by Christian McCaffrey on the first play from scrimmage—but ended up with 58 total rushing yards on 28 carries. Fifth-year senior QB Kevin Hogan was also a victim of the young and undersized Stanford O-line as he suffered three sacks at the hands of the Wildcats. Though unproven, the Knights’ defense is still better than the prior and Stanford, as mentioned above, may be head coach shopping by mid-year as David Shaw gets ready to take his turn as a coordinator in the NFL in 2016.
last week: 3-4
Cal -7.5 vs. SDSU
Michigan State vs. Oregon (Pick ‘em; I pick Michigan State)
Oregon State +14 @ Michigan
Central Florida +16 @ Stanford
Rice +15 @ Texas
UCLA -30 @ UNLV
Oregon @ Michigan State Over 66.5